The government have announced ambitious new emissions targets ahead of hosting the next global climate conference later this year, but critics say they need to match “rhetoric with reality”.
In its Sixth Carbon Budget, published this week, Boris Johnson’s government has pledged to slash emissions by 78 per cent by 2035, an increase from the previous commitment of 68 per cent by 2030, from a baseline of 1990.
These legally binding targets will now include the UK’s share of aviation and shipping emissions, an area previously unaccounted for.
According to the statement made by the Ministry for Business, Energy, and Industry Strategy, it is the highest reduction target made by a major economy to date.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We want to continue to raise the bar on tackling climate change, and that’s why we’re setting the most ambitious target to cut emissions in the world.”
The carbon budget is decided by government to ensure that the UK will meet the emissions targets set by the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
It comes ahead of the next UN Climate Change Conference in November, COP26, taking place on domestic soil in Glasgow.
COP26 president Alok Sharma said: “This hugely positive step forward for the UK sets a gold standard for ambitious Paris-aligned action that I urge others to keep pace ahead of COP26.”
While the statement of intent has been welcomed, environmentalists and experts are concerned that there is a gap between what the government are saying and how they are acting.
Dr Simon Evans, deputy editor at environmental outlet Carbon Brief said: “The UK's climate goals are ambitious and, significantly, they now formally include international aviation and shipping.
“But the government's own projections suggest the UK is not on track to meet its goals. In the six months before hosting the COP26 climate summit, the government has a series of chances to close the gap between ambition and delivery.”
Ed Miliband, shadow secretary for business, energy, and industrial strategy, told the BBC: “While any strengthening of our targets is the right thing to do, the government can’t be trusted to match rhetoric with reality.”
Other experts have said that the new emissions targets don’t go far enough to avoid irreversible environmental damages.
Adam Hardy, founder of Carbon Watchdog, a citizen action group for climate change, told Wicked Leeks: “The problem is that the target needs to be 2040, not 2050. The government are patting themselves on the back for being world climate leaders, but they’re looking at it through the lens of business as usual and not the real crisis it is.”